Nov. 17, 2014

Ashley Thompson

Not far into my junior year of high school, I was bombarded with emails, phone calls and mail from colleges all over the United States.

Each tried their very best to convince me that I would be happiest as part of their university.

After a student graduates high school, the next step is expected to be a college degree. These days, a college education is almost a mandatory prerequisite to a good career.

But that education has not become any more affordable. According to the College Board, the average price for a year of in-state college education is $8,893. This doesn’t include the price of books, housing, meals and transportation.

Student loan debt in the United States is at $1.2 trillion, and has become the second-highest form of consumer debt in the country.

But things are drastically different for students pursuing a higher education in Germany. On Sept. 30, the seventh and final German state abolished all college tuition fees.

The minister for science and culture in Lower Saxony, Gabrielle Heinen- Kjajic, said, “We got rid of tuition fees because we do not want higher education which depends on the wealth of the parents.”

Free college? Those words have never been in the same sentence here.

College, originally intended as a means by which to gain a higher education, has become something entirely different. Every university strives to be a high school student’s “dream college.” Advertisements include promises of breathtaking campuses, limitless degree options and state-of-the-art dorm rooms.

When did college become such a selfish endeavor?

Higher education has ceased to be simply the pursuit of a degree, and has become a vehicle for personal dream fulfillment. College should enable graduates to be the most productive citizen they can be, not cater to students as customers.

Students, paying thousands of dollars every year, feel entitled to the entire college experience.

Germany, with the abolition of tuition fees, has bypassed these issues.

Universities there can stop focusing their efforts on luring in prospective students, and instead focus on providing quality education. Also, students receiving a free education don’t feel entitled to extra privileges. They are simply scholars seeking to better themselves. While differences in economic and governmental systems make a similar policy not immediately possible in the U.S., colleges should take into consideration where exactly student’s money is going.

Are our thousands of dollars being spent on experience, or on education? If universities conscientiously asked themselves this question, tuition prices could be significantly slashed.

I know the importance of college, and see it as a vital way to further career opportunity and contribute to society. But the idea of college has been skewed in our generation.

Don’t choose your “dream college,” pursue a quality education. Don’t use what you learn merely for personal gain; strive to become an impactful citizen of the world.

Think of all we could accomplish, not as customers or consumers, but as scholars deliberately taking advantage of the blessing of higher education.

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